By the Slice
Contributors: Amy Berkowitz, Jennifer Jackson Berry, Sarah A. Chavez, Marissa Crawford, Carrie Hunter, Becca Klaver, Courtney Marie, Carrie Murphy, Alexandra Naughton, Alina Pleskova, Jaclyn Sadicario, Nicole Steinberg, Zoe Tuck
Spooky Girlfriend Press, August 2014
22 pages / $8 Buy from Spooky Girlfriend Press
There is a lot of pizza in this anthology. That’s obvious given the title, but poetry and pizza aren’t always thought of on the same wavelength. Poetry is serious, its nouns get capital letters, it explores deep and dark life mysteries through the brilliance of language, or something like that. Pizza is a delicious food. More than that, pizza is a cultural signifier of everything fast, cheap, and delicious about American culture. Pizza is just one huge carb covered in more carbs. It’s one of the greatest foods we have. But what’s so interesting about this anthology is how easily these poems break down the binary between high and low, pizza and poetry, and presents a group of texts that make fuzzy the boundaries between them. The fatty delicious pizza contrasts nicely with the self-serious reputation of poetry and mixes on the palate to create this new thing, this pizza poem.
It’s safe to say that the line between high and low culture has always been an issue with poetry. The dominant poetic culture is constantly wiggling back and forth between these two poles. The argument comes in different a form with new jargon every decade or so but it’s always along the same lines: low culture is bad and crass, high culture is good and uplifting. Or, low culture is emblematic of the real lives of humans while high culture is elitist and closed off. It may seem obvious that an anthology dealing entirely with pizza would skew strongly in favor of the low, and it really does in a lot of ways, but almost all of these poems deal with subjects worthy of any Serious Poet. There is plenty of fun and humor moving its way through here, but it isn’t a humor anthology. Instead, it’s an anthology that combines pizza-fueled jokes with sincere meditations on what it means to be a depressed person or what a local pizza joint can mean to family.
The very first poem in this collection lays out this high/low distinction and sets the tone for what follows. “Pizza v. Theory” by Amy Berkowitz and Zoe Tuck seems like the perfect poem to begin a pizza poem anthology, one that takes serious the idea of being very unserious. It says, “I am trapped inside a pizza with no hope of escape, / Except for Theory.” It is interesting how theory gets its nice capital “T” here, giving it a sense of importance, but also mocking its self-importance. It continues,
But theory won’t hear me. It’s big, hairy.
Its hair feels spiky if you pet it the wrong direction.
The problem is knowing which direction is right, given
That Mission is that way and this is Valencia and the toilets
At the BART stop always face west.
September 19th, 2014 / 10:00 am
Today is the last stop of Jen Michalski’s virtual book tour celebrating her new collection, From Here. The twelve stories in From Here explore the dislocations and intersections of people searching, running away, staying put. Their physical and emotional landscapes run the gamut, but in the end, they’re all searching for a place to call home.
Never Forever: Where Does the Story End?
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
I don’t like to talk about endings. I don’t like saying goodbye to my partner when she leaves for work in the morning, nor do I gracefully accept when visitors, who only live ten minutes away, must go home. I don’t like finality in general, particularly in my fiction. The best endings, in my opinion, hint at beginnings, offer several paths on which to move forward, let the readers take a short story (or even a novel) beyond the parameters in which the author has set. Like life, fiction should not be a cross section on a slide, to be viewed in isolation under a microscope. It should be a dialogue and a starting point.
In college I was introduced to Raymond Carver, not in a class, but by a roommate who loved the short story “Fat.” When I first read it, I was confused; a waitress recounts to her fellow co-workers her revulsion and confusion over a recent, extremely obese diner, a man who eats more than she has ever witnessed anyone eat and refers to himself as “we.” The story mysteriously ends with the waitress, speaking to the reader: “It is August. My life is going to change. I can feel it.” Would her life change as the result of the encounter with the fat man? Did her perspective of the world grow, and she awaited the fruits of these insights? Was the encounter with fat man completely unrelated to her mysterious epiphany?
Maine is not just a place to grab obscene amounts of lobster. Or George H W Bush socks. (Even though those are pretty good reasons to join the hordes of gaudy tourists). It is also the home of Citydrift in Portland this weekend.
Citydrift/Portland participants will include Portland-area artists, performers, poets, musicians, printers, dancers, writers, gallerists, curators, choreographers, and more, as well as participants and drifters from across the US and the world.
and it’s going on this weekend (Sept 19-21).
by Sam Pink
Lazy Fascist Press, 2014
112 pages / $8.95 buy from Amazon
1. Lot of 40s get drunk in Witch Piss.
2. So, take a pull.
3. King Cobras to be specific.
4. King Cobras are dirt cheap at just $1.99.
5. It’s hard to get an idea of the narrator.
6. Early on, he decides to be a ‘yes man.’
7. “I decided then to only ever encourage people, no matter what they wanted to do. To get through life by saying yes to everything, so no one could say I didn’t get what I wanted, and also so nobody would dislike me.”
8. Most everything he says is deflective in this way.
9. The reader does, I think, get a glimpse of the narrator when he shares his thoughts every now and then.
10. “Imagining myself enlarged, inhaling the smoke off a burning cop as he scream ‘no no no’ – unable to even touch his agonizing face because his skin’s so blistered.”
September 18th, 2014 / 5:18 pm
[Update 4 October 2014: See the bottom of this post for a bit more.]
This is a response to this recent post, which is itself a response to Janey Smith’s “Fuck List,” originally published at this site. It’s also a response to the numerous comments on the original post. Because it seemed to me that, as of this writing, a lot of the debate over Smith’s post, and the book that’s apparently resulted from it (which I’ve not seen), has taken the form, “Is what Smith did art?” Mind you, I doubt this post will settle that debate, but I hope it provides
- some historical context I think relevant to Smith’s post;
- plus an argument why, at the end of the day, I don’t think that it really matters whether Smith was making art.
I guess I should also note, in passing, that my name was the first name on Smith’s “Fuck List” (thanks to the magic of alphabetization). Since I find myself (along with numerous others) the object of some obscure desire, perhaps I can offer a few thoughts on the subject.
by Shane Jones
Two Dollar Radio, 2014
0. (is) The number of fucks Shane Jones gave when he wrote Crystal Eaters.
1. Like let’s be honest. Crystal Eaters really, is Shane Jones’ giant middle finger to the publishing industry and I love it. (Like, New York City, aka: where the big book-type stuff happens). (*cough* *cough* Penguin Books *cough*).
2. I like that Crystal Eaters was released via a small indie press like Two Dollar Radio and not Penguin Books. Really. And I don’t know why.
3. That’s a lie.
4. Actually, I do know why.
5. When Shane Jones wrote that article about his shitty experience with (publishing and editing) Daniel Fights a Hurricane, I kept thinking to myself: so, for his next book, is he going to try and come up with something super-boring and ultra-generic/fake for the suits so they will sign him for another deal or is he just going to keep doing his own thing and not sell out?
6. Crystal Eaters pretty much answered my question.
7. Really, for me, the experience of reading Crystal Eaters felt a little like watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, in the sense that it is a contemporary fable “of what social engineering caused by greed has done to the modern world, but shows us how to live and not give in to a material world.”
8. (Isn’t it weird how the IMDb synopsis for Holy Mountain just blends beautifully with/and works as a sort of faux-narrative for Crystal Eaters?)
9. The cover, I love. It’s this highly colour-fucked version of Elias Martin’s pen drawing of the Dannemora mine circa 1780-1800. (Or, at least, what I think looks like a highly colour-fucked version of Elias Martin’s pen drawing of the Dannemora mine circa 1780-1800).
10. And it’s neat to think that the art for Crystal Eaters isn’t anything custom-made (like the covers for Light Boxes and Daniel Fights a Hurricane) but something that comes from something that already existed in this world prior to Shane Jones ever even coming up with Crystal Eaters.
September 16th, 2014 / 2:30 pm
ok, Colum, so why should we read YOUR book ???
I’m going to answer this question, Rauan, because
1) you come well recommended
2) I am assuming, here, that you are behaving in good faith
3) I’m assuming this interview will get better
But, that being said:
You should read my book because it’s masterful and absorbing. Have you read the insightful blurbs on the handsome back? Or how about the glowing reviews and testimonials that precede the brilliant text? Quotes excerpted from places, you know, like the New York Times, Time Magazine and Bookslut.
Also, do you realize I’ve been translated into over 75 languages and that my books are available in airports and minimarts all across the world? Even in America I’m adored by the young, the old and the handicapped. And on top of that my books have been described as “page turners,” “psychologically immaculate,” and “structurally, marvels of audacity rivaling Clare and Spenser.” My books, you might know, have garnered tens of thousands of favourable ratings on Goodreads. (Aren’t you even a little jealous, Rauan? I just checked you out on Goodreads. ha. ha.)
My prose stylings, anyways, to be sure, are the joy of book clubs everywhere and have been heralded “as smooth as butter. . .and just as important.” But I’ve always been a low-key kinda guy and rather than trot out, spin, dazzle and spout all sorts of garbage and vanity I’ll finish you, and my answer, off with this anecdote the meaning of which I think’s crystal clear—
The other day I was lunching in The Village with Kishi Bashi, Junot Diaz and Dan Brown. The food was some kind of casual, fusion Thai, I believe, and the conversation was light and amiable. You might even say “breezy.”
Kishi mused, I think, about repotting what he called a “really aggressive avocado.” Junot told about some glitzy navel ring he couldn’t keep his eyes off one night at AWP in a sordid bedroom with a married woman, trying to unleash nearly a decade’s worth of seething, organic frustration. O, it was a gorgeous day! Junot was insatiably tweeting merrily away (I think he’s “Ted Hash-Berryman”), while Dan, on the other hand, just stared off into thrilling space– and we drank (and we drank!) so much cheap, slippery wine and the selfies with the buff young waiter were like an astonished adjective, timeless, incandescent, but fringed also with a kind of predatory nimbus head. And I’m not sure exactly how it happened (O, the Braille of our dreamy lives!!) but suddenly we were talking about the “the relevancy and future of Wisdom Literature in the Western World.”
Junot claimed he could describe “Wisdom Literature” in less than five words. And with no hesitation Kishi claimed he could it under four!! The atmosphere was electric, like a a tiny red umbrella. Or a candle. I could hear violins. I even thought I detected a tired old code in Brown’s stone eyes. They all looked at me. A long silence ensued. I dabbed at the corner of my mouth with a temple-and-elephant embroidered serviette, then stood up, made a small bow, and began:
“Gents, when I was a mere wee lad lurching about on the streets of Killarney I was hijacked once by a dusty, old lad who dragged me into an alleyway, grabbed my crotch and whispered:
FUCK YOU, RAUAN! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!!
I think Kishi paid the bill that day. with a grin like a neon, rotating skull.
(Rauan Klassnik, 9/2014, Kirkland, WA)
September 16th, 2014 / 9:00 am
Fearless As I Seam
by Abigail Zimmer
dancing girl press, 2014
$7 Buy from dancing girl press
The blood will fill your open spaces.
I can’t get to the woods easily from where I live. I seek quiet in the city parks.
One thing people say about New Yorkers is that they are mean. I’ve found people everywhere to be whatever they are. I think here privacy comes where you make it—often in public.
I came to this book & found privacy. I found intimacy & a new language of woods.
In Pittsburgh Abi took off her shoes & ran in the rain. This was private, intimate. She was alone while we watched.
At a rest stop between Muncie & Akron Abi ran up a grassy hill & disappeared. Josh charged his phone. I took two Advil. “Your friend sure has a lot of energy,” a man said to me. I didn’t respond, gave a half grin. I live in New York, I am a woman. I have been trained in certain ways.
This book feels like nature existing in my hands. There is loss. Fragmented traveling & discovery. I hold this close. I understand.
In Chicago she made late-night toast. A crusty sourdough with goat cheese, cucumber, & olive oil. I knew I liked here right then.
A chapbook is a short breath of intensity. It fills with meaning, longing. We understand it as complete.
I say: when I look at you I believe in growth. When I look at you I feel accepted.
Fearless As I Seam opens with closing. A closing of the world. An entering in with a different set of rules. A new vocabulary. All sense of reasoning—an offering. We walk in / we are met with a greeting, a warning, a hinted loss.
Follow me as I go:
I dress in the red earth. There is no laughter.
September 15th, 2014 / 10:00 am
Shame? No, not shame. I feel only glee in putting the cone to my mouth and bleating to you all that NOÖ  is finally out and that over there is what it looks like. Here is one of those crazy lists to suggest your nudge toward it: shepherds and crosses collaged, feather sisters, tossing phones into the water, animated knife piles, a girl who plays football named Tractor, shadow doves, batshit heroines, sunset cannonballs, peaceful blemishes, new gaps, #FUCKYESOXYGEN, and loving yourself at night. Check it out!